New qualification addresses skills training in warehousing sector

African enterprises eager to enhance their skills in the warehousing sector have an opportunity to do so with the launch of a groundbreaking freight handling qualification by Metro Minds. According to MD Juliette Fourie, this qualification goes beyond theoretical learning, offering students hands-on experience in a real warehouse environment. This practical approach allows students to develop essential skills in receiving, managing, and dispatching freight, ensuring they are well-prepared to meet the demands of the industry.

“The programme further stands out thanks to the use of a freight and distribution simulator,” she said. “This simulation not only facilitates the training of newcomers in the freight and distribution space but also equips them with the practical knowledge needed to be job-ready. Graduates can hit the ground running upon completion of the course, making them valuable assets in the industry.”

This initiative by Metro Minds not only addresses the need for skilled workers in the warehousing sector but also provides a solution to the ongoing challenge of offering practical, real-world training. The warehousing sector in South Africa and the entire continent encounters common challenges concerning infrastructure, security, and logistics efficiency. As demand for e-commerce continues to grow across the continent, warehouses and distribution centres are confronted with the need to tackle these issues and provide effective solutions. There is a noticeable trend toward using technology for better inventory management and tracking, alongside an emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency in warehouse operations.

Training, said Fourie, was of paramount importance for improving skills and efficiency in the African warehouse sector. Not only does it equip warehouse personnel with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their roles effectively, but properly trained workers are more likely to make fewer errors, work more efficiently, and reduce the risk of accidents and product damage, thus improving a company’s overall competitiveness.

“Safety is a top concern in warehouse operations. Training helps employees understand and adhere to safety protocols, reducing the number of workplace accidents and injuries. This, in turn, leads to cost savings, reduced downtime, and better employee morale,” said Fourie, indicating that it also increased productivity as skilled workers completed tasks more efficiently and quickly. “Training helps employees understand best practices and use equipment effectively, leading to a boost in overall productivity and throughput.”

Just as important is that ongoing investment in skills development delivers improved compliance with regulations. Many warehouses are subject to various regulations and industry standards. Training ensures that employees are aware of and compliant with these regulations, reducing the risk of fines and legal issues.“African companies investing in training and developing a skilled workforce ensure that the warehouse sector as a whole can grow and become more competitive on a global scale. This can attract more investment and create job opportunities across the continent,” said Fourie.

Urgent need to create a pipeline for women leaders

In recent years, the call for improved gender representation in leadership positions has gained momentum, and rightly so. However, the significance of having women in leadership goes beyond mere representation, says Juliette Fourie, managing director of Metro Minds.

“Research and data suggest that having more women leaders can be a game-changer for businesses and their financial performance. McKinsey research recently highlighted that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom. Plus, research from academics from the universities of Glasgow and Leicester showed that companies with more than 30% female executives were more likely to outperform companies that don’t. In 2023, women CEOs are heading up 10% of Fortune 500 companies for the first time in history. This is undoubtedly an important milestone. But it also underscores the need for more women at all levels of leadership,” she says.

Despite this, women’s representation in the freight industry remains historically low, particularly in roles such as truck drivers, freight handlers and other operational positions. Women continue to face barriers to entry and advancement in the field. Fourie says some advances have been made to improve gender diversity in recent years, but representation in many segments remains disproportionately low. “The lack of female representation can be attributed to various factors, including perceived physical demands, workplace culture, family and lifestyle considerations, and lack of mentors,” she says.

According to Fourie, it is essential that companies introduce programmes to increase women’s representation. “At Metro Minds, our workshops and programmes are aligned to cater for women in leadership roles and build a new generation of women leaders. There are currently wonderful success stories in the industry, and many organisations are good at promoting female leadership.” She says the freight industry must recognise the importance of gender diversity and actively work towards creating an inclusive and equitable workplace for all employees. In particular, there is an urgent need to create a pipeline for women leaders.

New degree course elevates professionalism in the industry

For the first time in history, the South African clearing and forwarding sector has access to a Bachelor of Commerce in Freight Forwarding and Customs Compliance. Metro Minds, as an associate faculty of the Da Vinci Institute, will be leading the elective stream for the business school.

According to Metro Minds managing director Juliette Fourie, the company has invested heavily in this new offering that will see them run the freight forwarding and customs compliance modules of the degree.“The course specifically focuses on applying skills to navigate the seamless movement, clearance, handling, storage and distribution of goods in the supply chain. Skills and knowledge include systems thinking, agility and entrepreneurship and creativity, translating into making better decisions, solving problems, and thinking critically,” said Fourie. The course includes ten elective modules that range from the international trade environment, freight operations, customs compliance operations and operation management to customs management, logistics management, risk and insurance management, commercial management and digital management.

Speaking to Freight News, Fourie said the course would also include practical application in collaboration with industry.“Another development at Metro Minds has been the ongoing focus on simulation of industry qualifications to enable work readiness and talent development into the industry,” she said. “This is aligned to cater for the skills of the future in the form of digital literacy, communication, creativity, innovation, problem-solving and critical thinking.” With this in mind, Metro Minds launched the pilot Supply Chain Simulation in Cape Town recently. This simulation utilises practical real-life experiences.

Another development that will also impact positively on industry is the development of Smart Minds – an interactive online learning platform designed to empower individuals to build knowledge, skills, and experiences. “All the courses are impactful and practical, with quizzes, videos, and exciting articles to expand and test your knowledge,” explained Fourie, highlighting the importance of practical experience for the forwarding and clearing sector. “The Smart Minds courses are diverse, including various topics ranging from personal development to human skills, life skills and industry-specific hard skills. The main aim is to optimise learning in the shortest amount of time, cost-effectively, with a memorable and fun experience.”

These courses have also been created with affordability in mind. “This is ideal for self-development, and creating a learning culture for a team.” Fourie said another aspect that continued to be developed at Metro Minds for industry was leadership development. “Our Leading Minds product is focused on personalised and customised leadership frameworks created and developed as per business strategy and needs. It is a three-tier framework starting off with potential leaders, existing leaders and then senior leaders. Leadership is a differentiating factor in any organisation and should be a first priority as part of talent management and capacity building.”

Simulation a key differentiator in airfreight sector training

The complex airfreight sector demands far more than theoretical knowledge, says Juliette Fourie, founder and CEO of Metro Minds. And in the face of current challenges, now is the time to invest in training.

“We can all teach theory, but practical training is still a challenge,” she says. “A controller or coordinator is generally only exposed to paperwork and information – not necessarily the cargo and aircraft movement. They do not have context of how cargo is packed, packaged, handled, loaded, moved and delivered across the world, 30 000 feet above the ground. ”Which is why Metro Minds has developed its blended learning approach in technical and specialised fields like airfreight. The simulated environment exposes them to how cargo moves as well as areas of risk. It is addressing a holistic view to ensure every key activity is covered – not just a portion of the movement. Using the blended approach, we are able to develop more activities and practical case studies to understand the foundation of airfreight better.”

Airfreight essentials form part of two National Qualifications in freight forwarding and customs compliance – online as well as blended. “With the focused approach, one is able to simulate more activities, in less time, with more retention and application.” She says the dramatic shift that has taken place to more modernised, simulated and virtual learning platforms is set to continue in the future. “Accelerated learning through simulation, gamification and practical learning is the way of the future. At Metro Minds we continue to come up with innovative ideas and solutions in this area,” she says, indicating that learning and education not only play a fundamental role in successful workplaces in general but are essential in the logistics sector where one is only ever deemed as good as one’s last shipment.


Compliance drives up training demand

Training firms have experienced a spike in demand for the training of interns and sales staff as businesses seek to boost the bottom line and achieve legal compliance with skills levy grants, EE and BBBEE targets in a difficult economic climate. Juliette Fourie, CEO of accredited training provider Metro Minds, says there is great demand for learnerships/internships, compliance and funded-driven training. “This serves the purpose of ticking compliance boxes in skills levy grants, EE and BBBEE targets.”

She says there has been a definite hike in demand for sales staff training, while training in incoterms, customer service and financial and customised training, including culture-driven and managerial programmes, are popular. “We have a lot of demand for courses on supply chain and procurement and the holistic picture of the freight world. Our supply chain management courses cover the seamless distribution of express cargo packages with modules focusing on the value chain, warehousing, inventory systems and procurement.”

Research has shown that for businesses to create great leaders and high-performance teams it is also essential to develop emotional intelligence (EQ) – the ability to know when to turn the heat up and show the light in an empathetic way. It’s a quality in short supply in the industry, she says. “It is a tough and very demanding industry. People are measured for every step they take and everything they do. They are bound by their demanding clients and a lot of money and risk is always on the line.”

Fourie believes organisations are driven by three things – people, processes and profit. If you don’t look after the first one, the last two are pretty useless.

Mitigating risk demands innovative solutions

Mitigating risk in a highly volatile trading environment is a top priority for every company, which is why training solutions provider Metro Minds has tailored its service offering to meet the varied demands of the market. “We have partnered with reputable companies in the industry not only to create awareness but also to educate traders on the risks they face – many of which are related to finance,” says Metro Minds MD Juliette Fourie.

“Our programmes are customised to the needs of our clients and run as workshops or formalised programmes. Topics like incoterms, trade cycles, finance in freight, insurance and best practice principles in trade are usually key areas of focus.” Providing innovative solutions to traders is a top priority, says Fourie. “Large disbursements with extended payment terms put extreme pressure on agents. Traders increasingly push for lower prices when negotiating solutions which puts the entire cycle under pressure. Agents are pushed to provide not only trade but also finance solutions,” she points out.

Understanding the activities and key functions of a trader’s business is key to creating solutions that mitigate risk. Metro Minds offers a variety of courses – from supply chain programmes and workshops to SCOR, CIPS and Sapics offerings – which deal with the full scope of traders’ and agents’ procurement and logistics activities. “Knowing and understanding these activities helps to create solutions,” says Fourie. “Through our association with institutes like CIPS, Da Vinci and End2End Supply Chain Academy, we believe we cover the full scope of the trading environment.”

Trade finance courses on offer

Training provider Metro Minds has developed a range of trade finance courses, drawing on the expertise of industry specialists to create relevant content. “Cash, risk and how to use financial information for planning and strategy are key focus areas in our programmes,” says Metro Minds CEO Juliette Fourie.

“Over the years freight forwarders have acted as financial institutions for their clients and this has placed significant risk on their shoulders. Traders should understand that the same principles apply whether they’re using banks or a third party handling their risk on a cash and outlay of money for services basis.” The company’s three programmes are based on different outcomes, says Fourie. “Our one-day ‘Finance in the freight forwarding environment’ course was designed and developed eight years ago with the input of some of the industry’s financial heads. Every link in the logistics chain should understand the impact of cash and risk on the business and how to cut costs through efficiencies, which is what this course is all about.”

‘Finance for business survival’ targets line managers and anyone who needs to manage a profit and loss report and compile budgets. “The objective is to provide the student with a simple and systematic way to analyse statements and make day to day decisions. The third programme, ‘Estimate Essentials’, focuses on how the forwarder can provide traders with cost estimates for importing or exporting their goods. We place a lot of emphasis on how Incoterms are used and how these affect risk, control and costs for the trader,” said Fourie.

Every link in the logistics chain should understand the impact of cash and risk on the business. – Juliette Fourie

Learnerships shape career decisions

The freight industry is like standing on the edge of world trade overlooking and facilitating everything in this cycle. The possibilities and opportunities are endless for those who choose it for a career, says Juliette Fourie, director of training specialists Metro Minds. “With a freight forwarding learnership one gets an idea of business in its totality – finance, insurance, forwarding, customs, sales, supply chain and general business etiquette.

From this sound foundation it becomes much easier to make a decision on a career specialisation,” she told FTW. “In freight, you can create a very clear career path for yourself.” Her advice to anyone considering a career in freight is that any education is beneficial. Asked about the skills situation in the freight and logistics sector at present Fourie said it was “very interesting and focuses more on specialised skills as well as applied knowledge of the basic operational skills”.

“Industry complains about operational personnel being able to do normal shipments, but the moment a solution needs to be provided or there is a problem with a client, they do not know how to approach this or solve the problem,” she says. “Skills such as solution-driven sales skills are a challenge for companies as they believe there are a lot of great salespeople in the industry, but their approach to giving the client a solution and selling the company’s benefits are lacking.”

Fourie maintains it is imperative that their service offerings always align with the scarce and critical skills identified by industry – whether it is something as technical as customs or something as simple as basic calculations. “We are very passionate about learnerships because it not only gives the organisation their financial benefit on tax, funding and BEE, but is also a successful induction program, a career pathing tool and the empowering of new skill,” she says.

The opportunities are endless. – Juliette Fourie


Metro Minds moves into freight handling sector

Metro Minds has applied to the Transport Education and Training Authority for accreditation to provide freight handling courses and has completed more than two-thirds of the course material.

“Receiving accreditation on this aspect of the global supply chain will be our stepping stone towards offering the full scope of freight industry training,” says director of Metro Minds, Juliette Fourie. The course material will not just be tailored towards freight forwarders but to their clients as well.

Fourie adds that handling and distribution sectors have been seen for far too long as the ‘stepchild of logistics’ when they are integral to the supply chain. “We are working hard to gain professional recognition for the respective industry qualifications and this training will go a long way towards that,” she says.

Acknowledging that learnerships are not just about imparting information, Fourie says Metro Minds strives to provide holistic training which incorporates life skills and is flexible and adaptable enough to take different levels of development into account.

The company, which specialises in freight industry training, also offers more generic training, focusing on sales, finance, management and computer courses, among others.